Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Warding off the Corona in an Empty Hotel

About a month ago Justin called me in the middle of the day from work and asked if I wanted to bring the kids and come live with him in DC for the month of March.  My answer was "no, not really."  He seemed a little shocked but I reminded him that flying cross country alone with three little kids isn't fun.  Justin wasn't deterred though.  After painting a picture for me, of us touring through DC not pregnant and morning sick, like the last time.  I relented and agreed, and we started making preparations for departure, but I had that nagging sense that this wasn't going to be quite as fun as we had imagined.  My father-in-law mercifully volunteered to arrange some of his business flights and meetings so that he could fly with me and the kids, and even put us up in a hotel in Denver the night before departure to make the whole airport thing go smoother.  He also basically saved me when at 11pm in Denver I reached the horrifying revelation that I had just doped my older two up with melatonin and then discovered that I'd failed to pack diapers for Evalyn.  Seriously, not a single diaper.  Oh, and don't let me forget to mention that Vivian had started running a fever the day before, and the pediatrician had basically thrown some antibiotics at us and wished us luck.  (Not my regular doctor, and one that I believe to be relatively incompetent.  A story for another time...)  So it was great having Grandpa along as we made our way to DC on the bumpiest flight of my life.  I was starting to get kind of nervous when after hours of bumping around in the sky the airplane was creaking and squeaking over the bumps, but we arrived in one piece with a feverish, pale looking Viv in tow.  Justin picked us up, Justin's dad treated us to an amazing dinner at Ruth's Chris, and then left for his business trip.  Both of Justin's parents were going to meet us here for the last week and a half or so of the trip, so we expected to see him again soon.

Our first day here the kids and I decided to spend the day at the hotel.  Vivian was still feverish, with no other symptoms, and while we joked around about her having the Corona virus I figured a day to just lounge in front of the TV was definitely in order.  Unfortunately the day in front of the TV didn't do anything for her fever, and the second day in front of the TV only resulted in everyone feeling a little crazy and a fever and cough for me.  We decided that it was time to visit an urgent care, where Viv tested positive for Influenza A, you know, the form that is completely preventable if you bother to get your flu shot.  It doesn't count if you just intend to get that shot for you and yours, unfortunately.  We returned to the hotel room armed with Tamiflu for everyone (except Justin since the army does his flu shot so he isn't victimized by my irresponsibility), and after a lot of discussion decided that a day outdoors would probably make everyone, even flu-ridden as we were, feel better.  We went to Gettysburg on Sunday and were practicing social distancing before I'd even heard the term.

At Gettysburg
The kids and I went with Justin to base one day so that I could do laundry while he was in class.  Vivian and I were feeling better, although the Tamiflu did make me feel sort of queasy.  For Ivan, the Tamiflu gave him crazy diarrhea, and I spent all day long running him back and forth to the bathroom.  I washed my hands so many times that they were cracked and crusty by the time Justin was done and we could retreat back to the hotel.  By that time I was kicking myself for not standing my ground and staying home.  That was the beginning of the week, but by the end of the week the Tamiflu had caused Vivian to break out in hives all over her body, all of Washington DC was pretty much closed, and the flu left me with a residual cough that could clear a crowded room. We spent Saturday at Harper's Ferry and Anteitam, where I actually did clear out a small group or two of people with my coughing.  It was a welcome reprieve to be outside for a little while.

At one point during the outing Justin got a message from work telling him to go to the airport and get himself home.  Five minutes later he was on the phone with his boss being told to stay.  That night we returned to an all but empty hotel.  It was around that time that I realized how truly fortunate I am to be here with Justin, to have our family together, especially as I tried to envision what life would be like right now at home with empty grocery stores, three little kids, a crazy cough, and worried about when I'd get to see my husband again.  Justin's parents ultimately cancelled their trip out here, and I spend my days here holed up in a hotel room with three small children (don't whine to me about being stuck at home with your kids, I don't feel bad for you).  Since the hotel is largely empty, I'm almost positive that there are no other guests on our floor.  Sometimes during the day we run races in the hallway.  The pool, gym, and outdoor patio were all closed some time ago.  It's been days since I saw anyone besides hotel staff on this floor.  As of this morning housekeeping is only handing in clean towels, and picking up trash.  I had to request to have a vacuum run through the room.  Since restaurants are all closed to dine-in guests we're eating dinner every night on our hotel room floor. 

Yesterday when Justin got released we took a mostly empty metro into the city to see the cherry blossoms on the mall.  The mall was actually full of people running, and people looking at cherry blossoms.  For a few blissful hours life felt actually kind of normal.  It was nice, really nice. 

As of right now Justin is predicting that his course will end early, and he has received authorization to drive us home when it does.  Neither of us are interested in boarding an airplane right now.  Once home again they've assigned Justin a work shift from 1pm-9pm.  I'm dreading this.  DREADING THIS, but at the same time telling myself that I need to just be grateful that my husband still has a job to go to right now, regardless of the inconvenience of the shift.  I'm praying that it doesn't last long, but anticipating that it will be a while before we get to have dad home for family dinners, bedtimes, and bath times again.  This whole thing is a super surreal experience.  Crazy times guys, crazy times.  

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Museums, Pumpkins, and Spangles

Our last vacation somehow slipped through the blogging cracks.  We took a longish break and went to Boise to visit Justin's family.  It was a visit that was long overdue.  Justin hadn't been home in well over a year.  My favorite part of the trip was a vacation within a vacation when we took a little road trip from Boise up to Couer d'alene, somewhere that Justin and I had never visited.  It was really beautiful up there.  However, we quickly discovered that it's beautiful, but not exactly packed with things to do, particularly with small children in tow.  However, we caught the Northern Idaho state fair, did a boat tour out on the lake, and enjoyed a nice dinner at a restaurant right on the shoreline.  I can't speak for the others, but I found the experience very enjoyable.  We returned to Boise the next day and continued with the vacation full of cousins, pool time, a trip to Lucky Peak, feeding the ducks with Grandma Cotter, and the paddle boats at Julia Davis park (which I've been wanting to do for years, and I loved it and want to go again.)

Notice the still damp pants on Ivan.  There was another wading/swimming incident with the kids prior to the boat tour, and again afterwards.

The only kid with any energy left at the end of the day.
Weirdly we didn't end up taking any other pictures this trip. 

After Boise we have been awaiting our next vacation, a long weekend to Oklahoma City over Columbus Day.  We wanted to go somewhere new, and we wanted to go somewhere that we wouldn't be disappointed if the weather went to crap, so Oklahoma City is the obvious choice, right?  It must be, because Brianna and Ima decided to fly in and join us for this one, and we got a chance to see Andrew and Katie there too.

Our first stop was the bombing memorial.  This one was my idea, it's been on my bucket list for a while.  To be honest, the memorial was nice.  The museum, was great.  A little heavy, but we enjoyed it.  I also like that Vivian is getting old enough now that I showed her a video about the bombing before we went, and she was at least vaguely aware of what had happened and why we were there.  

It's a little weird to me that these are chairs for each bombing victim, I felt weird with the idea of sitting on one.

As a side note, the size of downtown Oklahoma City was surprisingly small, and it struck all of us that it made the location of the bombing seem very random.
By the time we emerged the kids were over it. 
Viv's face here is pretty hilarious.
We took them to ice cream at Braum's, a chain that Justin recognized from his mission, and then off to a pumpkin farm.

I have never been to a pumpkin farm like this one.  There was a train, a carousel, tube slides, playgrounds, corn pits, sand boxes, jump pads, tire stacks, hay stacks, petting zoo, pumpkin patch, pony rides, hay rides, a sad corn maze that hadn't grown in as well as one would hope, and then a smaller, thicker corn patch.  We spent a few hours there, before we made our way to the corn maze at the far reaches of the property.  We wandered around in it for a while, and then went to the pumpkin patch to let the kids pick out a pumpkin for themselves while I nursed Evalyn.  The adults were all talking, and Vivian and Ivan were picking out pumpkins, and then Ivan wasn't.  He was just gone.  The pumpkin patch wasn't big, and it was right next to the corn maze, and the thick corn patch. It was not an ideal place to lose track of a small child.  When we realized that he was gone everyone started splitting up searching for him, and I found myself barking orders at a very young employee to call someone and see if security to watch at the front gate for my small son.  She was a little on the panicky side, and I honestly was considering snatching her phone, when only a moment or two later Ivan was spotted cruising around in the half-grown corn maze.  He followed someone in that he had apparently mistaken for me.  He was returned to me wide-eyed and shaking, and for a while just hugged me while he repeated over and over again "you left me behind."  Aside from that unfortunate incident we loved the pumpkin farm.  

Evalyn was not such a fan of this idea.

We made our way back to the hotel that night exhausted.  The next morning we left and drove through portions Justin's mission, and Route 66.  We spent the night in Wichita, where we discovered the restaurant chain, Spangles that appears to only exist in Kansas.  To our disappointment the ice cream machine was broken, and it's the kind of place where you can just sort of sense that you're going to need a shake.  Fortunately there was one about an hour or so down the road, so breakfast the next morning was at the hotel, and topped off with shakes from Spangles, and they were delicious.  So if you ever find yourself in Kansas, we'd recommend stopping in at a Spangles for a milkshake. 

We also took a little time to drive through the heart of Wichita so that we could take in the number three recommendation in tripadvisor and visit the Guardian of the Plains. 
Not a thrill a minute kind of thing, but it was quite scenic. 
Our next stop on the way home was at another one of the eight wonders of Kansas, Mushroom Rock State Park.  It was only a short detour, and sounded interesting...or at least as interesting as the other two rocks we'd already seen that were on the list.  As it turns out the state park consisted of about a dozen or so odd rocks, a couple of which were in fact shaped like mushrooms. 
The state park was down a lovely dirt road.  It really was nice out there.

The kids loved climbing around on the rocks.

The most mushroom looking rock in the "park."
After that it was just a long haul back to Denver to drop off Brianna and Ima, and cruise home.  We were pretty sad to have the trip end.  We had a great time, and it was one of the best short trips we've done, and in all seriousness, we're liking our ventures out onto the plains.  Justin has added that this is not my most interesting blog post, so I guess next time I'll have to figure out a way to hype this up a little.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Texas Time

Justin and I have wanted to venture back into Texas for a long time.  Justin couldn't make the family reunion in San Antonio a couple of years ago.  It's been a very long time since we went to Dallas to see Devon and Annette.  Andrew Clark and Katie now live in Texas, as well, so we were long overdue for a visit.  It sometimes seems, even to us, like we're vacationing all the time, because we're going places all the time.  It's actually been close to two years since we took a real family vacation.  The sort where Justin doesn't work the whole time, and we go somewhere and just have fun for more than a long weekend.  Needless to say, we've been counting down the days to our Texas vacation.

We left right after Justin got home from work on Wednesday.  Colorado was cold, windy, gloomy, and we were excited to be heading south.  We drove all the way into New Mexico and then cut east to the small town of Hereford, Texas.  The original plan had been to stay in a hotel in New Mexico, but the hotel in Hereford was $30 cheaper, and got us further down the road.  Let's just say that the weather was such that we would have gladly paid twice that to have been able to spend the night in New Mexico, but we were committed.  There was a crazy thunderstorm, lots of rain, lots of lightning and as we were cruising along on some deserted highway where we literally had not passed another car for at least 45 minutes, something darted out in front of our car.  Justin hit the brakes, and we both started freaking out about what it was that he had almost hit.  We're 99.99% sure that he almost took out a Barbary Sheep.  They're native to Africa, but a population of them were released in New Mexico back in the 1950's.  We were very excited to have seen one, and very relieved that we didn't kill it.  We rolled into Hereford late that night, and waded through the flooded parking lot to our hotel room where we realized that I had failed to pack Ivan's pajamas.  He's quite particular about his pajamas, he was not interested in sleeping in his clothes.  Justin was contemplating rushing out to the Walmart down the street that we passed on our way into town.  The flash of lightning and thunder booming straight over head settled the discussion and I put Ivan in one of my t-shirts for the night.  Justin and I are both a bit scared of lightning ever since that incident at Dinosaur National Monument a few years back.

The next morning things still looked a little cold and drizzly, but nothing we couldn't handle.  We headed out to Lubbock where we met up with a friend of mine, Karen, who I grew up with in Orem.  We haven't seen each other for some twenty years, so it was great to get a chance to meet her husband, and catch up with her.  We met up at the Prairie Dog Town in Lubbock.  It's really just a city park, where apparently they relocate prairie dogs from other parts of the city to live out there and you can come out and visit and feed them.  I brought along some sliced up carrots for the kids to throw to them.  They loved it. 

Ivan kept trying to race up and throw the carrots directly down the prairie dog holes.
After all the carrots were gone Karen showed us where the Lubbock temple is and we walked around the grounds and she took a few pictures there for us.  

Karen, Evalyn and I
Our visit to Lubbock was rather brief, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, and hope to be able to see Karen and her family again sometime before another two decades have elapsed.  Also, I would like to note that Lubbock is just as flat as Kansas, possibly more so, and that's really saying something.  I can see why they're part of tornado alley.  

From Lubbock we continued on towards Marble Falls, where we were staying in the time share, and then meeting up with John and Devon's families the next day.  I missed sort of a key turn, and Justin refused to back track, so we ended up taking a somewhat less than direct route to Marble Falls, but we did arrive there that evening without any further problems.

The next morning we had reservations to go to the Hamilton Pool Preserve.  This place looked so cool.  I have done lots of reading about it, looked at a ton of pictures, and I was very excited about this...and then the road to it was washed out by some rain from the previous night.  I was pretty disappointed, but I kept reminding myself that I have two brothers in Texas.  This won't be my last visit to the area.  Thankfully, Justin had read up on a hike that wasn't really close at all, but it sounded great, so we decided to try that instead.  It was beautiful!  I do not envision this sort of thing when I think about Texas.  
Our first glimpse of the waterfall, and we were pretty excited.

Naturally we stopped to take a bunch of pictures

And then we hiked further down and saw this.

I bought him a little portable tripod for Christmas, he left it in the car, hence the weird angle.
It was really spectacular.  The river runs right by the falls, and it was freaking me out how high and fast it was running, so I made the kids stand on that wooden platform the entire time to make sure that neither of them ventured out of my sight.  We successfully made it out with all members of the family still present and dry.  

Also, the wild flowers were in full bloom, and they were amazing.
Thankfully Justin's hiking research paid off and we salvaged the day.  By the time we got back to Marble Falls Devon and John's families had arrived at the time share.  John and his three oldest didn't show up until the family breakfast, the next morning...ish.  When they showed up we decided to go take a tour of the Longhorn Caverns that Annette had read about.  We were pretty impressed with these caverns.  Justin and I have been to a few, and this is probably second on our list, only to Carlsbad Caverns.  
At the Cavern entrance

There were a couple of rooms that were covered in these crystals.

He looks fairly innocent in this picture, but Ivan was a bit of a wild man in there.  Going on three days without naps was definitely taking a toll.

A tiny little bat.

We were perpetually at the back of the tour.

There were some very cool open rooms like that in these caverns.
The caverns were definitely a great choice.  Although, we enjoyed the experience, our tour guide really wasn't our biggest fan.  We had a whole herd of small unruly children, and there were a other parties there with a few kids of their own.  A couple of times our guide started talking about something that he seemed to find very exciting, and then his voice just sort of trailed off as he realized that nobody was listening, and he moved us along.  There was one couple there without kids who seemed a bit annoyed with us as well, and I overheard snippets of a conversation between them and the guide at the end where he remarked that we had been a challenging group.  At the time I just wished he would stop yapping with them, since Vivian was dancing around in a state of emergency, having failed to use the restrooms before the tour.  She's four, so this is really a failure on my part, but thankfully her dad was able to race ahead with her and resolve the issue.

We arrived back at the time share just as the clouds broke, the sun came out, and we all headed over to the pool.  I gather that we were similarly unpopular at the pool.  It seemed to me that everyone in our party had a great time.  When I retreated to the hot tub with my tiny, purple, shivering son to warm him up a little bit we were treated to a conversation there about the annoying group in the pool that was playing with water guns, and apparently driving away other resort guests.  

The pool wore the kids down and we called it a night shortly thereafter.  The next morning we regrouped for another family breakfast before Devon and his family had to return to Dallas and we continued on to San Antonio with John and his family.

Our first day in San Antonio was supposed to be a pretty low-key day, to give the kids a chance to recover a little.  John invited us to go meet up with him at his work on the USAA campus for lunch.  We were thoroughly impressed with the campus, and glad that he made the suggestion.  Any other family that goes to visit, you should take the time to do that.  He told us to take a few minutes to drive around after lunch and look at the campus.  For a second I thought he was kidding, he wasn't.  It's beautiful.  

The next day we took some time to go to the Alamo and the Riverwalk, and neglected to bring the camera.  Thankfully, Michelle took this picture for us at the Alamo.  
It was blazing hot outside, and we just came from Colorado, so only a few hours in that humidity pretty much exhausted us.  Even Evalyn: 
She seemed to like her Uncle John
The next day we had reservations to hike Enchanted Rock.  Michelle had some church obligations, so she had to sit this one out.  This was all my idea, but some times I do this thing that I've sort of alluded to on here before, where I suggest a hike, and then Justin gets all enthused about it, and I start to regret it because it sounds more torturous than when I read about it online while relaxing on soft couch cushions.  Justin ends up having to all but drag me to the trail head, and then we have a great time.  That was pretty much the story at Enchanted Rock. I'm glad that he knows me well enough to not let me back out.  We had a really great time.  The kids loved climbing around on the rocks.  We ended up spending the better part of the day out there.  

I know that I'm a little partial, but I think my little people are very cute.
By the time we left we were completely exhausted.  The kids were unbearably crabby, even Evalyn.  We pulled over to look at a weird, huge pile of snakes in the river on our way out of the parking lot, and I think all three were wailing, and then all three asleep before we made it 5 miles down the road.

We had to race back because Justin was helping John out with scouts by allowing John to pretend to be a radio talk show host interviewing Justin about his job in the military.  I'm a little sketchy on details, so all I can tell you is that Justin seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience, allegedly the boys seemed to enjoy the experience, but one of them was not able to walk properly afterwards because of the number of wall sits he was asked to do during the "interview."

Our last day in San Antonio John took the day off work to spend with us.  We drove out to a place near New Braunfels called Coopers to experience "real" Texas BBQ.  It seemed very authentic to us.  One of the other patrons attempted to talk to Justin and I.  He was wearing a cowboy hat, tight pants, button up shirt, and had something to say about Evalyn.  I thought it was my hearing loss that was keeping me from understanding him, but Justin confirmed later that it was his accent and that Justin had no idea what the guy was saying either.  Justin thinks he was complimenting our parenting, but for all we know he was actually insulting it. All the same, we loved Coopers, and we were very glad that John had the day to come with us.  

We visited the Japanese Tea Gardens on the way back to San Antonio.  They were unexpectedly cool. 

The pools were filled with koi and little turtles

I love Atlee on the leash in this picture

The clear water here made Vivian remark that it made her want to go swimming.
We finished that day off with a visit to John and Michelle's neighborhood pool.  At the end of the day Vivian announced that she never wanted to leave San Antonio.  Her cousin Creed, in particular, was a source of never ending entertainment for her.  

It took us FAR too long to drive from San Antonio to Dallas the next day.  We made one stop outside of Austin to experience a Buc-ees, which was quite an experience, and spent hours sitting in traffic as we had the misfortune of getting stuck behind four pile ups.  FOUR.  We arrived in Dallas somewhat frazzled from the experience.

The next day we spent some time in the morning with Devon and Annette, then went off to meet Andrew and Katie for lunch, and then we were all supposed to go together to the George W. Bush library.  Over lunch there were flood warnings, and the sky in the distance was turning the green that Justin recognized as tornado weather.  We decided to scratch the library.  We spent some time with both Andrew and Katie and Devon and Annette at their respective homes before we finally had to start the drive home.  We spent the night in Burkburnet, Texas, and the next morning tackled an 11 hour drive back to Colorado Springs.  The kids were great on the trip home, even little Evalyn.  The weather was good, thankfully, although it seems that the next day the area we had driven through was riddled with tornadoes.   As for us, we arrived home to a flat tire on the van, had to shuttle Vivian and Ivan off to the neighbors across the street while we returned the rental car, and settled in here at home just as the snow started falling and we woke up this morning to ten inches of snow.  Maybe Vivian was on to something when she said that we should just move to Texas.  She's ready to make every family vacation a Texas vacation.